GRCC trustee Deb Bailey remembered for her compassion, tireless support for students

April 27, 2020 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Deb Bailey attended Grand Rapids Junior College and went on to be a leader in the community and business world – but returned to the college to help others have the same opportunities to be successful.

Bailey, vice chairperson of the GRCC board of trustees, passed away Sunday.  

“Our GRCC family is devastated by the loss of someone who was – and will remain – a shining example of the impact this college can have on a person and a community,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “Deb Bailey was as kind as she was smart, passionate as she was brave. Her work touched many people, and we are all better for it. That’s a tremendous legacy, and the GRCC family will greatly miss Deb Bailey.”

Bailey, the former director of corporate relations for Steelcase Inc., was appointed to the GRCC board in 2013 and was elected to a six-year term in 2015. 

She helped found Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, and received the first Valiant Victor Award from West Michigan Woman magazine in 2019 for her exceptional courage and determination in fighting breast cancer.

“Deb had great compassion and always put the needs of the students first,” board chairperson David Koetje said. “She was focused on supporting our students, and had a deep appreciation for our faculty and employees and for everyone who worked in higher education. She will be deeply missed, but also long remembered.” 

After attending GRCC, Bailey transferred to Western Michigan University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English, communications and education. She earned master’s degrees in counseling from WMU and in management from Aquinas College. 

“Personally, I am a product of public institutions,” she said during her 2015 trustee campaign. “I neither had the grades nor the financial support to go directly to another institution. I know the important need GRCC fills for students financially, as well as personally and academically.”

She received a Salute to Women award from GRCC in 2015 and served as a co-chair of the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation’s successful “A Broader Vision” campaign in 2019.

“Deb was a tireless, positive force in the community,” said Dr. Kathryn Mullins, GRCC vice president of College Advancement and executive director of the GRCC Foundation. “Everything she did was focused around providing support and comfort for those who needed it most. She was a warm, kind person who shared her talents, expertise and friendship.”

Bailey devoted her time and energy to many West Michigan organizations. She served on the boards of the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation, Hospice of Michigan, St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Bailey received a number of awards, including the YWCA Tribute Award for Community Service, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Athena Award, and Aquinas’ Outstanding Alumni Award. She was also named one of the 25 Most Influential Women in West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

Grand Rapids Community College offers learners of all ages opportunities to gain credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills leading to rewarding careers. GRCC was established in 1914 — Michigan’s first community college — and offers affordable classes on weekdays, evenings, Saturdays and online at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.